I’m fascinated to watch how the world’s media is heaping posthumous praise on Lee Kuan Yew and compare it to their depiction of his contemporaries, like Fidel Castro they took power in the same year and are about the same age. Despite many similar aspects of their countries – a clamp down on political dissent, effectively single party rule, harsh treatment of homosexuality, limits on the right of assembly, nepotism, limits on freedom of the press, etc – LKY gets praised, mostly because he turned Singapore into a beacon of capitalism. Castro, on the other hand, has been the subject of continual criticism for 50 years because he threw the capitalists out of the country.
In a glowing obit, the NYT says LKY was “efficient, unsentimental, incorrupt, inventive, forward-looking and pragmatic” and has little negative to say about his authoritarian rule. Instead: “His leadership was sometimes criticized for suppressing freedom, but the formula succeeded. Singapore became an international business and financial center admired for its efficiency and low level of corruption.”
The lesson? Authoritarian capitalism = good. Authoritarian communism = bad. Even though they both rank highly in the UN Human Development Index, only one of them has been the subject of economic sanction for 50 years. It’s not the authoritarianism that the Western elite have a problem with – it’s what you do with it. If you’re a capitalist, everything else doesn’t matter apparently.